May 27, 2007

The One Flaw of Woody Allen Movies

Woody Allen is a genius. From the urbane neurotic wit of Annie Hall to the madcap hilarity of Bananas, the man knows how to make a good movie. But in my further exploration of his work recently, I'm beginning to notice a strange trend: people don't respond to his jokes. In any of his movies in which he stars, about fifty percent of what his character says consists of hilarious one-liners probably relating to Judaism, his childhood, or Freud. Often, they don't really relate to what the character talking to him just said, or he clearly twists his answer to get in a joke. I don't have a problem with that. What baffles me is that all of these clever one-liners just fall flat and evaporate unnoticed by all other characters. In Manhattan Murder Mystery, for example, Allen's character says to his wife, "I can't listen to that much Wagner, you know. I start to get the urge to conquer Poland." After that line, it cuts to another scene. Later, he confronts his wife about her snooping around in the neighbor's apartment, and says, "Save a little craziness for menopause!" Someone would probably either be offended by that statement, or laugh because it's funny. But his wife just keeps talking about how easy it was to get into the apartment, ignoring her husband's comment. In Annie Hall, discussing a documentary about the Nazis, Annie wonders aloud how she would hold up under torture. Alvy (Allen) blurts out, "You, you kidding? If the Gestapo would take away your Bloomingdale's charge card, you'd tell em everything." Again, Annie would probably either laugh or be offended, but she just keeps talking about Nazis like he didn't say anything. And in Sleeper, Allen gets asked to lead a government revolution by some scientists, but he has this tangent about how he's not a leader type, got beaten up by Quakers, and screams a lot. As usual, the scientists ignore all his jokes, but they also blatantly wait patiently for him to end his little routine so they can go back to being urgent. I know that cinema is not real and dialogue is not always designed to echo real life, but Allen is doing himself - and his comedy - a disservice when he writes like this. It takes me out of the movie, and makes everything he says sound like standup that no one is listening to, or that both characters are just talking to walls. So I implore you, Woody...please let other characters respond and react to you!

May 22, 2007

Movie Linxxx

Some movie-related links that are tickling my fancy these days:

- The folks over at Something Awful took it upon themselves to take some movie posters and photoshop them into grindhouse-style movie posters. Awesome.

- "Five things you can't say in Hollywood," according to an Esquire writer. Very interesting and provocative.

- Apparently, people in the UK lie about seeing movies that they haven't seen and "name-drop" notable films that they have. Something tells me that this happens in the US too.

- Also on the subject of our friends across the ocean, British women confess to having seen Dirty Dancing an average of 15 TIMES!! See what else tops the Brits' most-watched list here.

- If you are not familiar with the Angry Alien site already (, you should go and watch ALL of their 30-second reenactments of popular movies done by animated bunnies. I've seen them all and their latest, March of the Penguins, is a favorite, because it's a movie consisting entirely of an animal that is nothing like a bunny. And it's narrated by "Morgan FreeBun." Nice.

- And finally, a really cool movie-themed t-shirt. Just so nobody gets mad at me, I'm telling you now: it's a really well-designed shirt that contains spoilers for the endings of about 20 different popular movies. It would either make you the most popular or the most hated person at a party.

May 15, 2007

Top 5 Bitches in Movies

I take the word "bitch" very seriously. I believe that it is overused to describe feisty women who get what they want. But there are real bitches out there...women who are really mean and catty, but also pack the dangerous punch of smarts and cunning. (I'm ashamed to admit that I was friends with some in high school). You'll notice my old-movie bias, because I don't think that they make on-screen bitches like they used to. They can't just be mean - they have to be smarts and substance. A good cinematic bitch is great to watch, as demonstrated by the fact that two of the movies on my list won the Best Picture Oscar, and another was nominated. On that note, here are my top 5 biggest bitches in movies, in no particular order:

1. Regina George in Mean Girls.
Type: Classic high school bitch.
Portrayed by Rachel McAdams, she is the personification of the blonde, power-hungry alpha female. Her nastiness knows no bounds, from snide comments behind people's backs, to a "burn book" saying horrible things about everyone in school. She comes around in the end, however, channeling her aggression into sports.
Quote: "Do you know what everyone says about you behind your back? Hmm? They say that you're a homeschooled jungle freak, that's a less hot version of me!"
2. Eve Harrington in All About Eve.
Type: Bitch in disguise.
Here's your typical bitch-playing-innocent routine. She starts out the film as a naive girl worshipping actress Margo Channing, and then uses cunning and manipulation to claim Margo's career - and man - for herself. Anne Baxter's slimy and sickly sweet portrayal churns your stomach.
Quote: It's too long to put in here, but she makes up a ridiculous sob story about her rough past so that Margo will pity and accept her.
3. Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca.
Type: Eerie matronly Hitchcock bitch.
Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson) was a fan of her employer's deceased wife, Rebecca. She is not a fan of his new wife, a sentiment she makes clear by repeatedly suggesting that the new Mrs. de Winter commit suicide. Oh, and then she goes apeshit and burns down the house. Fun fact: Hitchcock said that the costumes for this character were designed so that she would always appear to be floating over the ground instead of walking, making her even creepier.
Quote: (next to an open window) "Go ahead. Jump. He never loved you, so why go on living? Jump and it will all be over..."
4. Basically the entire cast of The Women.
Type: Catty, gossipy bitches.
This is the film that my gay coworker Davy, a veritable conoisseur of bitchy movies, called "too much for me." It's hard to select just one bitch from it, although the protagonist Mary Haines is largely exempt. Main bitches include Sylvia Fowler (Rosalind Russell, delightful to watch as she ruins reputations), Miriam Aarons (Paulette Goddard), and Crystal Allen (Joan Crawford), all guilty of some serious adultery, man-snatching, and talking behind people's backs. At the end, Mary realizes that she has to beat them all at their own game, in a triumphant scene at a party where she exposes everyone's secrets to each other.
Quote: (Crystal Allen): "There is a name for you, ladies, but it isn't used in high society... outside of a kennel."
5. Veda Pierce in Mildred Pierce.
Type: Ungrateful, spiteful, teenage bitch.
Watching this movie, I wanted to jump into the screen and punch Veda (played by Ann Blyth, who earned an Oscar nomination) in the face. She plays the daughter of the titular Mildred, a working-class woman who works her working-class ass off to give her daughter all the luxuries she wants, but to Veda, it's never enough. She is always embarassed by the fact that her mother works, and is always acts like her mother leaves her needs unfulfilled. Oh, and then she steals her mother's old husband so that she can give him the life she wants. Karma kicks her ass in the end, though.
Quote: (to her mother) "You think just because you made a little money you can get a new hairdo and some expensive clothes and turn yourself into a lady. But you can't, because you'll never be anything but a common frump!"

Honorable mentions:

- Hilary Faye (Mandy Moore) in Saved!
I excluded her because the character of Hilary Faye gets into the slippery slope of people who are psychotic bitches because of religion. They often don't understand that being a bitch for religion is wrong, whereas the other lovely ladies on this list are most certainly aware that their behavior is not exactly angelic. That said, she has some awesome bitch moments, like when she violently hurls a Bible at Mary (Jena Malone) and screams, "I am SO full of Christ love!!"
- Mary Tilford (Karen Balkin) in The Children's Hour
More of a bitchlette, since she's about 11 or so. She couldn't anticipate the consequences of the lie she tells to avoid going back to school. However, she most certainly knows what she's doing when she manipulates her poor classmate Rosalie into lying for her, by saying that the police are hot on the trail of a missing bracelet that Rosalie took from another girl. And her eyes bug out and she's really intense, even for an 11-year old.